Manchester United will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five games when they head to Vicarage Road for a potentially tricky clash with an often stubborn Watford side.
The hosts were targeting a third straight win in their last match at Leicester City, and comfortably held their own against the third-placed team until goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made a howling error to gift the Foxes their opener in the second half. It was a mistake that was to prove fatal, as the Brazilian then brought down Jamie Vardy for a penalty that the in-form striker gleefully converted, with Troy Deeney’s spot-kick at the other end not enough to spark a recovery.
Gomes has been a very consistent player for Watford since joining at the beginning of last season, so if he returns to form his side have enough about them to give United problems here. Their defensive record is strong, so they have the ability to frustrate opponents who have been somewhat goal-shy of late, but in Deeney and Odion Ighalo they also have a strike partnership which has as good an understanding as any in the top-flight.
There was not a lot of memorable action for the Man Utd fans to enjoy throughout much of their game against West Bromwich Albion before the international break, but the team picked up a victory which leaves them just two points off the top of the Premier League and with reason to claim that they are part of the title race, despite all the regular arguments to the contrary. It seems currently that winning is not enough for many of their followers – the football must be entertaining and free-flowing.
Manager Louis van Gaal will forever be indifferent to those who raise doubts against him, but he will be pleased with two aspects of his side’s play in recent weeks. Firstly, they have a become a really solid unit and the club’s defensive record deserves plenty of credit, with clean sheets having been kept in their last six games in all competitions. Meanwhile, Jesse Lingard has impressed since being given his chance in the first-team, curling in a fine goal to break West Brom’s resistance.
Watford will be without a trio of defenders for this clash, as Joel Ekstrand, Tommie Hoban and Sebastian Prodl are all injured. Ighalo will be assessed after returning late from international duty.
Anthony Martial is absent for Man Utd along with ill captain Wayne Rooney and injured quartet Marouane Fellaini, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia. Full-back Matteo Darmian is available after suspension.
Last Meeting: Man Utd made a flying start to the 2006-07 season and made it three wins out of three by edging out Watford by two goals to one. They took the lead after 12 minutes when defender Mikael Silvestre fired low into the net after being set up by Louis Saha, only for Damien Francis to equalise from an Ashley Young cross. Watford battled hard, but the game was settled when Ryan Giggs took advantage of Matthew Spring’s mistake to find the roof of the net.
Played for both – Ben Foster: After helping Watford to promotion to the Premier League in 2005-06, he returned to the club on loan from Man Utd for the following season, where he made 29 appearances and was unable to keep them up. After that he served as a backup goalkeeper at Old Trafford to Edwin van der Sar, but left in 2010 to pursue first-team opportunities elsewhere having only played 12 times in the Premier League for the Red Devils.